Senate Education Committee

Bill Fischer, External Affairs Director

Thank you Chairperson Gallo and distinguished members of the committee.

My name is Bill Fischer, and I am the external affairs director for RI-CAN, a local nonprofit education advocacy and research organization. Since 2010, RI-CAN has advocated for policies that ensure all children in Rhode Island receive a high-quality education.

We urge you to support Senate Bill 557 because thoughtful and deliberate district-charter collaboration is an important step toward ensuring all Rhode Island students have access to a high-quality education.

This bill allows a school committee for any public school district, charter public school or network of charter public schools to enter into a compact with one or more school committees of other districts, charter public schools or networks of charter public schools that, in whole or in part, draw students from the same district. It will spur innovation, collaboration and effective resource sharing among our most promising schools.

Both traditional public schools and charter public schools are incredibly valuable to Rhode Island. This bill creates opportunities and concrete pathways to leverage best practices from each to strengthen public education and create meaningful opportunities for our children.

SB 557 establishes a compact fund to support ongoing collaborations and incentivize innovation and best practices sharing among schools. The fund also allows schools in a compact to leverage state dollars to better train and support teachers, develop efficient methods to reduce costs within districts and collaborate to make enrollment procedures simpler and easier to navigate for families.

With the recent expansions of General Electric and Virgin Pulse into Rhode Island, it is critical that we draw on the best educational practices and models we have from every corner of our state to prepare our students for the rigors of an ever-evolving economy.

We have seen collaborations between traditional public and charter public schools succeed across the country. According to a study published earlier this year from the Center on Reinventing Public Education, partnerships like these have resulted in more effective common enrollment systems in Denver, New Orleans and Camden. In Philadelphia, collaborations have resulted in joint efforts to welcome high-performing charters in place of failing neighborhood schools while serving the same population. In Washington, D.C., district-charter partnerships have had an impact on equity and transparency in discipline policies across sectors. We have seen schools take important steps to foster partnerships that continue to benefit children and families from both types of schools.

We know that collaboration through compacts like these can have significant multiplier effects, which would bring innovation and impact to Rhode Island schools.

By supporting this bill, you vote to foster district collaboration that will establish concrete avenues for sharing information, practices and expertise while creating efficiencies through thoughtful resource sharing.

Rhode Island schools and students stand to gain enormously from district-charter collaborations like the ones this bill allows. Please support SB 557 so that our students can benefit from innovation, collaboration and effective resource sharing among our most promising schools.

RI-CAN advocates for the success of every Rhode Island student, from pre-K through college and career. We improve policy to help all students thrive and share promising practices and stories to demonstrate that all kids CAN succeed. 


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